Expert proposes world eco-cops to guard resources
Author: Jeremy Lovell
"What is really needed is an efficient Environmental Crime Intelligence Unit set up with an international basis," Frank Madsen told a seminar.
Madsen, an ex-Interpol detective and former head of security for U.S. drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb, said the proposed eco-cop unit would have to have its basis in an existing organisation such the International Maritime Organisation.
It would work closely with national government environment units, with Europol and Interpol and with non-governmental organisations but have the power and cross-border abilities currently unavailable to the others.
"The unit would have to have clout," Madsen told Reuters. "NGOs have their own agendas and are frequently ignored."
"This would create a win-win situation," he noted, adding that Interpol's efforts to try to set up an environment crime unit were making painfully slow progress.
On Monday, experts at the two-day seminar organised by the Royal Institute of International Affairs heard that environmental crime was costing up to $40 billion a year - mostly in illegal logging.
Eco-criminals were simply thumbing their noses at under-funded and overstretched enforcement agencies.
From illegal dumping of toxic waste to manufacture of illicit chemicals, illegal trade in endangered species and unlawful logging, the trade thrives across the world from highly organised gangs to ignorant tourists, the experts said.
Governments are wringing their hands over the trade but the vast amounts of money involved and the frequent political interference had stymied most attempts at control.
Madsen said the unit he was proposing would conduct stake-outs, surveillance and discreet detective work to track down the smugglers and dumpers and build a watertight case against them for prosecution by national governments.
Many of the organised gangs worked through legal front companies, laundered their proceeds through legitimate firms or had underhand dealings with above-board enterprises.
Once tracked back from the small-time operators, these firms, Madsen said, could be prosecuted under corporate governance rules under which the firm had to prove it was not guilty - reversing the usual criminal justice initial presumption of innocence.
"The penalties in the United States range from $300,000 to billions. That should be sufficient to deter most of the criminals," he added. "After all they are only in it for the money."